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Arthritis patients too may suffer severe COVID-19 complications

Severe arthritis can damage the body from within and this makes it easier for any virus to invade your body. @Shutterstock

While analyzing the implications of COVID-19 for people with underlying health conditions, arthritis patients have more or less been ignored. But they too are at risk.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : April 27, 2020 6:27 PM IST

The number of COVID-19 positive cases in India have surged to 10,363 and the death toll, according to latest reports, stand at 339. This disease does not discriminate on the basis of age or sex but, going by global data, the elderly are at a higher risk of severe complications and death if they catch the infection. People with chronic and underlying health conditions are also at greater risk of severe complications of COVID-19. Therefore, if you are diabetic or have other chronic conditions like heart disease and hypertension, you must take extra precautions because the chances of severe complications and death are more common in this patient group. This is mainly because of lower immunity. The ravages of the chronic conditions combined with strong medications are not conducive for a strong immune system.

However, in all this, we notice that a group of patients who have escaped scientific scrutiny to a certain extent are people with arthritis. This is a common health problem that is age and immune-related. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, but osteoarthritis is not.

Arthritis and immunity have a close relationship

Experts are of the opinion that arthritis may not be as big a risk factor as cardiovascular disorders or metabolic diseases. But then many older patients also have arthritis. You need to understand that the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis can trigger your autoimmunity. Again, your own immune system can also trigger autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Severe arthritis can damage the body from within and this makes it easier for any virus to invade your body.

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Rheumatoid arthritis can increase your risk of COVID-19

This particular disorder can cause immune deregulation. They are usually on immunosuppressive drugs and, as we all know, a suppressed immune system is not good for fighting off COVID-19 infection. But experts are divided in their opinion when it comes to understanding whether immunosuppressant drugs can increase risk the infection of Covid-19. But they all agree that some drugs used for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory arthritis increases the risk of many viral infections in patients. Immune suppression can cause the virus to replicate unhindered. This may cause severe complications.

What you need to do

If you have any flu-like symptoms now, inform healthcare professionals about any medications that you may be taking. He or she may be able to formulate a better treatment plan for you accordingly. Your doctor may still continue with your non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs if you have no symptoms of Covid-19. Till now there have been no evidence of any relationship between non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and severity of COVID-19 symptoms. But, in such times, it may be prudent to take extra precautions just to be on the safe side.

The alternative

Your doctor may recommend immune-modulation instead of immune-suppression. This can be done via stem cells treatment. This is nothing but regenerative medicine therapy. This bypasses the issue of immune-suppression. Moreover, it boosts immunity and helps your body fight off all invading pathogens and germs including the COVID-19 virus.

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